Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Working Mom Series | Preparing to Go Back to Work After Maternity Leave



Thanks for joining me for today's first installment of my Working Mom Series! 

Preparing to come back to work after having a baby can be one of the most stressful times in a new mom's life. Personally - and I pray none of you were this way or are doing this now  - but from the time we brought Walker home from the hospital, I was counting down the weeks until I had to leave my baby and go back to work. 

On his one-week birthday, I would think: "Okay, I have 12 more weeks until I'm sitting in my desk chair." And it would just go on each week until "D-Day," as I not so lovingly referred to it. I'm sure - I know - I made my husband miserable with my constant counting down, and I am positive I didn't enjoy maternity leave to the fullest because I was dreading going back to work and leaving my baby. 

However, even though I was borderline depressed about being away from Walker eight hours a day {when I'd never been without him for 12 months…since I'm counting being pregnant with him}, I did do a lot of planning to make the transition easier. 

And here's where my vulnerability and complete honesty comes into play: Are the tips I'm about to share going to make you going back to work any easier emotionally, physically and/or psychologically? No. Big, fat, N-O. Unless you have no soul, it's hard to leave your child in the hands of someone else while you're at work. Mommy can always do it better! {"It" being the operative word.} But don't get me wrong, it is nice to be dressed in "normal" clothes, put make-up on and have adult interaction sometimes. 

I hope these tips make your transition back to work smoother, a little less hectic and allow you to enjoy your maternity leave more than I did. 

So, here are some tips to prepare to go back to work after maternity leave: 

1. Try to go back on a Wednesday if you can.
Personally, I couldn't do this because I work in the school system. Your days are calculated to the "T" and start the moment you go out on maternity leave - whether you've had your baby or not. Since I went into the hospital on a Monday, that meant I had to come back in exactly 13 weeks from that Monday. So, Monday it was. 

But, if you work in a corporate job - or one that has a bit more flexibility with maternity leave - I would suggest going back to work on a Wednesday. Why? Because it's a shorter week, obviously, and gives you some time to ease back into going back to work/dropping your baby off at day care/wearing make-up all week, etc. 

I'm not going to lie, going back on a Monday was pretty tough, especially because I felt like I had accomplished so much on Monday…and then realized I had to do it four more times that week. Try Wednesday if you can.

2. If you're a breastfeeding mom, PUMP. 
Pump, pump, pump while you're on maternity leave. But, don't let the thought of, "OMG I have to pump allthetime!" stress you out. Walker was born Jan. 29, and I didn't start pumping {to save milk for later} until mid-February. Once he was on some sort of a schedule - feeding around every two hours or so - I would feed him, we'd "play," and I'd lay him down for a nap. Then I would pump in between feedings. I'd only get about three ounces total at each in-between-feedings pump, but that's three ounces more than I'd have if I didn't pump at all. The reason my supply was so high is because my body thought I was feeding every two to three hours. And, guess what? We're still using the milk I pumped while I was on maternity leave. {Although that stock is depleting quite quickly.} Yes, it takes about 3.5 of those precious bags of gold to make one bottle, but it's comforting knowing we have it now…because my supply has seriously waned since I've gone back to work. Which leads me to...

3. Invest in a good pump. 
I have the Medela Pump In Style Advanced breast pump, and I've been very pleased with it. If you can afford their ridiculously expensive Symphony breast pump, I would probably go with that one. {My sister-in-law rented this one from the hospital, so check to see if that's an option, too.} Anyway, invest in a good one. Why? Because when you go back to work, you're gonna get real friendly with that little guy. {I'll get more into this on Thursday!} While you're on maternity leave, practice with it! Ensure you're comfortable using it, and be sure you're 100 percent confident on how to change the membranes; wash and sanitize the parts; and make sure to stock up on extra valves, tubing, membranes, pumping bottles, etc.

4. While we're on the topic of pumping, buy clothes that are easy to pump in. 
I'm not saying to go out and spend your entire savings on a new wardrobe, but do invest in some tunic-type shirts that will be easy to pump in at your office. I made the big mistake {"Big mistake! Huge!"} of wearing a dress my third day back at work, and when it came time for my first pump of the day, I was bare-butted on my office chair and praying that no one dared enter my office for fear they'd be scarred for life. I like to now wear skinny ankle capris and a tunic shirt on a daily basis, and if I need to class it up, Loft has great collarless blouses that look nice while also being functional. Also, I'm a big fan of the Basics Stella Maternity & Nursing Bras from Target. They're the only ones that are comfortable and don't dig in to my sides after about 3 p.m. And, with all of these clothes and bras: buy them as close to going back to work - and as close to your post-baby body - as possible to ensure you can wear them well after you're finished nursing/pumping. 

5. Stock up on things you know you're going to run out of quickly. 
Because I knew I'd be running on borrowed time once I went back to work, I made a big trip to Sam's Club right before I returned to work to stock up on things I knew we would run out of quickly. The last thing you're going to want to do after being at work all day is go to the bathroom and find that you're out of toilet paper and call your husband in a panic  begging him to run by the drugstore on his way home! When I went to Sam's, I purchased toilet paper, paper towels, Ziploc bags, detergent {for both our clothes and Walker's clothes}, dryer sheets, K-Cup coffee, peanut butter {because we eat a ton of this in our house}, soap and coffee creamer. I also went to PetsMart and purchased two bags of Oliver's cat food. Of course, these things will vary based on your household and what you do and do not use {and run out of quickly}, but the bottom line is: have your husband keep your baby for an hour and go stock up! 

6. Research meals. 
Say what?! Yes, you read that correctly. Research quick, easy meals that you can make when you get home from work. I spent a ton of time on Pinterest finding meals that had five ingredients or less, as well as easy Crock Pot meals. Before Walker, we definitely didn't eat gourmet, but I had the time to bake something in the oven for 45 minutes. Now? Not so much. I'm a big fan of spaghetti, anything in the slow cooker and of course, any meal that has "Easy" in the title. We are also not above eating hot dogs or sandwiches, and you might just have to let your pride go out the window and eat hot ham and cheese sandwiches on a random Thursday night…

But seriously, Brandon has helped out a lot by cooking every Wednesday night when he's not traveling for work, which has been a huge weight off my shoulders. Typically his meals are a little fancier than spaghetti, which is also a nice perk. But if you're searching for things to make once you go back to work, check out my Slow-Cooker Recipes Pinterest Board, as well as my other ones (Healthy{er} Recipes and Not-So-Healthy Recipes} to see if anything strikes your fancy. 

7. Make a practice run.
Personally, I never did this, but it was advised to me by numerous people. I never did it because I wanted every single second I could have with Walker, but I would recommend it. I was a blubbering mess the day we dropped him off for his first day of day care, and I think my first day back at work might have been a bit easier if I had taken him a day or two before my maternity leave was up. {Remember that you pay for the week at most places if you just go one day, so be prepared for that.} If you choose to be like me and not do this, it's very helpful if your husband, significant other, parent, etc. can go with you to drop the baby off. I cried a lot, and it was very helpful to have Brandon there with me when we walked out and left him. 

While you're on maternity leave, do your research and really think long and hard and pray about where you're going to send your child, whether it's a corporate day care, an in-home day care, a nanny, etc. We had to switch Walker at the last minute because the place we had a "deposit" on, per se, just wasn't the right fit for us once he was born. The place we are at now is a true Godsend, and I'm thankful they had one spot available when I called. A true blessing. 

8. Purchase a bottle warmer. 
This one is given to you directly from my husband! We purchased a bottle warmer right before I went back to work because I finally resigned to the fact that I couldn't - and shouldn't - be the only person in the world who was able to feed Walker. While I adore the fact that I'm the only person who can give him exactly what he wants and needs, it's helpful for someone else to give him a bottle while I take a little break. 

According to my husband: "Buying a bottle warmer gives your man no excuse to not take a night feeding, which is a good break for mom at the end of a long day at work." 

While it took him - and me - a while to figure out our bottle-feeding routine, we've finally gotten into the swing of things. And in fact, because my supply has dropped so much since I've gone back to work, Walker takes a bottle at all but his morning feedings. I pump either while Brandon is giving him a bottle, or after if I've given it to him. I get about half of what I got during a normal feeding, but it's still something and I'll just mix that with one or two bags of frozen breast milk. 

9. Create an understanding.
When I was home on maternity leave, I was responsible for our laundry, picking up around the house, making dinner, etc. But when I went back to work, things became 50/50. Since we both work, both get up at 5 a.m., etc., we both share equal responsibility with both Walker and things around the house. That means that no one is above doing laundry, cooking dinner, doing the dishes, feeding the baby, putting sheets on the bed, or anything else that needs to be done around here. 

Before I went back, we sat down and decided that. We both agreed that whatever needed to be done around the house would get done by the both of us. There are days that our house is a wreck, Walker is screaming and Brandon is vacuuming the floors. There are also days that Walker is happy as a clam and Brandon is entertaining him while I fold laundry, clean the kitchen or pack lunches. But what you have to create is an understanding of grace. There will be times you have no clean laundry, times your house will look like a bomb went off and times you wish you had a Fairy Godmother to come in and wave her magic wand to make it all look better. But there is compromise and that's the best thing you could ask for. 

I hope these things help you some, and I also hope you'll stay tuned for tomorrow's post, where I'll tell you how we get out the door now that Walker is in the picture. 

Happy Tuesday!

2 comments:

  1. These are great tips! Thanks for sharing :)

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  2. Thanks for sharing! These are definitely not things I would think of on my own.

    ReplyDelete